TOKYO / Reuters
Japan plans a wave of new gas-fired power stations as the country’s electricity retail market opens up from April 1, allowing new entrants to compete for a market of 85 million customers with annual sales of about $70 billion.
In the biggest shakeup in the industry’s history in Japan, regional utilities are losing their monopoly rights for the most lucrative segment of the electricity market in the world’s third-biggest economy. The changes come as Japan struggles to revive its nuclear industry, which is still mostly shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster of 2011.
Nuclear power contributed nearly a third of total electricity generated before the catastrophe. Companies plan to build 42 new gas-fired power generation units with capacity of around 20,615 megawatts (MW), due to come online by around 2030.
Japan had a total 120 gas-fired units at the end of March 2015, with capacity of 71,266 MW, according to industry data.
The electric power industry in Japan covers the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electric energy in Japan. Japan consumed 988.9 TWh of electricity in 2012. Electricity transmission in Japan is unusual because the country is divided for historical reasons into two regions each running at a different mains frequency.
Eastern Japan (including Tokyo, Kawasaki, Sapporo, Yokohama, and Sendai) runs at 50 Hz; Western Japan (includingOkinawa, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nagoya, Hiroshima) runs at 60 Hz. This originates from the first purchases of generators from AEG for Tokyo in 1895 and from General Electric for Osaka in 1896.
This frequency difference partitions Japan’s national grid, so that power can only be moved between the two parts of the grid using frequency converters, or HVDC transmission lines. The boundary between the two regions contains four back-to-back HVDC substations which convert the frequency; these are Shin Shinano, Sakuma Dam, Minami-Fukumitsu, and the Higashi-Shimizu Frequency